Pine Tar in Baseball + MLB Rules for Hitters & Pitchers

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Pine tar is the sticky stuff produced from the wood used by baseball players.

So, are you a baseball enthusiast who wants to know more about the function of pine tar in the sport?

Or do you want to learn how to utilize pine tar to improve your bat skills?

Or did you come here after hearing about the most famous pine tar incident in 1983?

Whatever the case may be, you’ve come to the perfect place for all of your answers, as I’ve addressed everything in this post.

Continue reading to learn all there is to know about pine tar.

Famous Pine Tar Incident of 1983

The pine tar incident of 1983 could be one of the reasons for you to come up here.

This incident is quite popular in baseball’s history.

The pine tar incident happened when George Brett of the Kansas City Royals hit a game-winning two-run home run in the ninth inning against the New York Yankees.

George Brett has used an excessive amount of pine tar exceeding the 18-inch limitation. He was given out for using an illegal bat (at that time, the rule did not mention that the batter shall not be given out for using excessive pine tar grounds).

Watch this video of the 1983 Pine Tar incident.

Use of Pine Tar In Baseball

Pine tar is a brownish-black, sticky material that baseball hitters may apply to their bat handles to strengthen their grip and keep the bat from slipping out of their hands.

A strong and relaxed grip helps players to hit the baseball in such a manner that the ball makes greater contact, and the exit velocity improves, resulting in more pop.

Same as the bat, if applied to the baseball, gripping it becomes easier; if the weather is cold and the balls are slippery, applying pine tar to the ball will make gripping the ball easier.

Is It Legal To Use Pine Tar In Baseball?

The legality of using pine tar differs depending on whether you are a hitter or a pitcher.

Pine tar is okay for batters or hitters, but it is banned for pitchers. These facts are supported by the official MLB rules stated below. You can also check this super long pdf full of MLB rules.

Pine Tar Rules In Baseball

To clarify whether using pine tar is legal or illegal in baseball, I am stating all the rules relevant to the use of any foreign substance (here, pine tar) by the pitchers and batters.

Pitcher Rules:

Pine Tar for Pitchers
  • Rule 3.01: No player shall intentionally discolor or damage the ball by rubbing it with soil, rosin, paraffin, licorice, sand-paper, emery paper, or other foreign substance.
  • Rule 3.06(b): ‘No pitcher shall attach to his glove any foreign material of a color different from the glove.’
  • Rule 6.02(c)(4): The pitcher shall not: apply a foreign substance of any kind to the ball.
  • Rule 6.02(c)(7): The pitcher shall not: have on his person, or in his possession, any foreign substance.

The rules mentioned above clearly tell us that pitchers are not allowed to use pine tar, even if it is of assistance to them.

Batter Rules:

Pine Tar rules for baseball hitters

As stated earlier, using pine tar is legal for batters, but there are certain limitations for batters as per the official MLB rule stated below.

  • Rule 3.02(c): The bat handle, not more than 18 inches from its end, may be covered or treated with any material or substance to improve the grip. Any such material or substance that extends past the 18-inch limitation shall cause the bat to be removed from the game.

But there is a note following the rule, which states that:

‘If the umpire discovers that the bat does not conform to (c) above until a time during or after which the bat has been used in play, it shall not be grounds for declaring the batter out, or ejected from the game.’

Then, what is the batter supposed to do? The question is answered in the comment of the Rule 3.02(c):

‘If pine tar extends past the 18-inch limitation, then the umpire, on his initiative or if alerted by the opposing team, shall order the batter to use a different bat. The batter may use the bat later in the game only if the excess substance is removed. If no objections are raised before a bat’s use, then a violation of Rule 3.02(c) on that play does not nullify any action or play on the field.’

So, even if a batter is allowed to use pine tar, he has to do it according to the rules.

How To Use Pine Tar In Baseball?

If you have difficulty grasping your bat, you may use pine tar now that we know it is allowed to be used for batters, and may also help you have a better grip.

The following methods may assist you in applying pine tar to your bat, particularly wooden bats which do not have grips at the handle like composite or aluminum bats.

1. Clean Bat

Before applying pine tar, make sure your bat is free from any dust or dirt so that it does not get stuck inside the layer of pine tar which makes it difficult for pine tar to stick to the bat.

2. Remove the Cap From Pine Tar

Removing the cap is important, okay? Don’t forget that!

If you are using pine tar in the stick form, you can just remove the lid and use it with the rest of the plastic bottle on.

3. Applying Pine Tar

Applying Pine Tar on the Baseball Bat

Apply the tar to your bat’s handle. To thoroughly coat the handle, rub pine tar up and down, twisting the bat a bit at a time until you cover the entire handle.

If you don’t want your bat’s handle to get too slick, put pine tar in the middle of the bat.

Rub your palm against the barrel and then again on the handle when you need additional stickiness on the bat.

Remember to keep the 18-inch rule in your mind while applying pine tar.

You may also want to watch this helpful video about the use of Pine Tar.


Pine tar is beneficial to pitchers and hitters in improving their grip on the ball and bat, respectively.

However, hitters are the only ones who can utilize it.

The formal regulations on whether pine tar is lawful or not have been amended several times throughout the years, and they may be revised again in the future.

Nevertheless, the regulations now are as stated.